Then why are we arming the Turks?
The irony is:
Turkey, ---- the only nation which is willing to commit significant troops in Iraq ---- sent 10,000 ground troops, warplanes (F-16s made in the USA) and helicopter gunships across the northern border into Iraq killing hundreds of Kurds in the last few days.
The eency, little problem is that the Turkish troops are attacking the Kurds, our staunchest allies in Iraq. And they are using our weapons to do it.
Bill Clinton, in prescient private talks to 50 wealthy supporters last summer (exclusive to HuffPo), said:
"The two wrinkles in her (Hillary's) policy that some of the purists won't like, but I think she is absolutely right, are that she would leave some troops in the Kurdish area in the north because they have reconciled with each other and they enjoy relative peace and security...And if we leave them...not only might they be gone into a long civil war...the Turks might be tempted to attack them because they don't like the fact that the PKK guerrillas sometimes come across into northern Iraq and hide after staging attacks in Turkey."
"We don't want that," the former President went on to say.
Last June, in answering questions at a leadership conference, Hillary Clinton made headlines in the largest newspaper in Turkey with her mildest of answers about the Kurds, calling them close U.S. allies. None of this was reported in the US press.
But Bill Clinton, in his "off the record" remarks, carried Hillary's statement much further and will cause much consternation in Turkish ruling circles.
It is a thorny dilemma, emblematic of what is so schizophrenic about our policy in the Middle East. In the 1980s, the US gave Saddam chemical weapons to gas the Kurds. Then we gave the Kurds arms and money to rise up against Saddam; now the Bush administration is giving the Turks military intelligence, money and arms to blast the Kurds.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan confirmed that he called George W. Bush and spoke to him by telephone last week before the invasion. Erdogan also emphasized that PKK camps were the only target and that the Turkish troops would try to return home as soon as possible.
The Turks, supposedly our most loyal Muslim allies --- most of the arms and weapons that the US needed for our invasion and occupation in Iraq came overland through Turkey --- have been worried about this flip-flopping American policy for some time.
But we may be overestimating Turkey's support. A Pew poll in June found that out of 47 countries, Turks had the least favorable view of the United States.
Opposition to an independent Kurdish state has been a longtime linchpin of American policy in the region, going back to the Clinton era, --- because of fears that it would threaten Turkey, a major regional ally, which has a large Kurdish minority of more than 10 million who seek independence.
This is a dangerous situation that could easily flare up. In March of 1995, 35,000 Turkish troops invaded northern Iraq using the US imposed "No Fly Zone" as protection for its own jet fighters, a move which annihilated dozens of Kurdish villages and killed tens of thousands of Kurds.
Kurdish rebels used US bombs and other US weapons to blow up the Turkish military convoy in this latest foray last month. Not surprisingly, Turkey used Pentagon supplied weapons to attack the Kurds. America is supplying arms to two "friendly nations" at the same time to fight each other!
This is nothing new. The U.S. has a zany history of arming third world countries and then of sitting back and watching U.S. arms be used against each other and us. Let us not forget that the Taliban weapons used against American troops were largely manufactured in the United States and given to the Afgan rebels to help defeat the Soviet occupation. Many of Saddam's weapons were originally supplied by the US to help Iraq in its war against Iran.
George Bush is in a tricky position. According to a headline in the Washington Post, the US, "HELPS TURKEY HIT KURDS IN IRAQ" by providing real time satellite imagery intelligence to the Turkish military.
Previously, the US warned Turkey not to invade Iraq, as any Turkish invasion would interfere with our invasion of Iraq.
But apparently Bush is letting them invade a little now.
Meanwhile the Kurds - with large oil reserves now pledged to US companies - have a history of divided loyalty. One large faction was allied and close with Saddam Hussein; another sizably large group was allied with Iran and still another group was allied with the Kurdistan Workers' Party. During the US invasion, the Bush administrations could not figure out which group to back and, ironically, ended up supporting the Iranian faction to rebel against Hussein.
The oil markets are watching this conflict carefully and if it gets worse watch the price of oil skyrocket.
Naturally, as the Arab proverb says, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." But the conundrum is: which of my friends do I support if they start fighting each other and will I lose my one friend if I support my other friend?